Barron’s wishy-washy on Medical Properties, Reminds me to look at rebalancing

Barron’s came out with a note about Medical Properties Trust (MPW) over the weekend, and I was wondering if it would spur some profit-taking in the stock… doesn’t appear to have happened yet, the stock is down slightly after the open but is more or less in line with the other healthcare REITs.

Here’s what the Barron’s update said — it was a note updating their recommendation of the stock from late last Fall, when they thought (and I agreed at the time) that MPW had gotten irrationally cheap:

“AT THE END OF 2015, fears over rising interest rates sent investors running from real estate investment trusts, which rely on the debt markets for growth. In a bad market, shares of Medical Properties Trust (MPW) fared worse.

“In November, the hospital REIT’s stock was off 18% for the year, when this column penned a positive piece on the company. Medical Properties had spent $1.5 billion on hospital investments in 2015, and that had taken its debt higher than many investors were comfortable with.

“Our column posited that the high leverage looked remediable and that, at just over $11 a share, the shares were cheap. Paying down debt, the story argued, would lift the stock. Six months later, that has played out, and at a recent $14.75, the stock has rebounded 31%. With dividends included, its total return hit 37%.

“At 12 times next year’s estimated adjusted funds from operations, the stock doesn’t look as cheap as it did. While the shares yield 6.2%, some profit-taking is in order.

“Last month, Medical Properties sold its equity stake in one of its hospital operators, Capella Healthcare, and primarily used the $550 million in proceeds to pay down debt. That brings net debt down from 6.4 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization in the fourth quarter, to 5.6 times, a more comfortable level.

“On the May 4 earnings call, Chief Executive Edward Aldag said that the deal ‘put our balance sheet back in the top 30% of all REITs.’ It also opens the door for new investment activity, though it will probably be more modest than in the past few years. The company is expected to deploy $385 million this year and $645 million in 2017.

“That could drive growth. As the only REIT that invests solely in acute-care hospitals, Medical Properties has a competitive advantage. This year, ...

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